IRB insists breakaway needs its approval
Leading figures of Premiership clubs will convene today to discuss their plans
IRB sources maintain that any new cross-border competition rivals to the Heineken Cup, such as the Anglo-French tournament being proposed, cannot happen without the approval of the world governing body’s council
IRB sources maintain that any new cross-border competition, such as the Anglo-French tournament being proposed with increasing militancy by various English and French club spokespersons, cannot happen without the approval of the world governing body’s council.
Amid the torrent of official releases and statements emanating from the Anglo-French club alliance on one side, and the ERC/Celtic and Italian unions on the other, the only missives emanating from the IRB in recent days concern a media briefing with the board’s chief executive Brett Gosper in Canary Wharf today regarding the 2015 World Cup in England.
As the briefing will also “provide media with an opportunity to discuss IRB objectives” that ought to ensure a fair degree of discussion about the Heineken Cup row. Akin to the RFU, the IRB have maintained a watching brief to date while, behind the scenes, encouraging meaningful discussions between all parties, and Gosper is likely to play a straight bat and cite the IRB’s Regulation 16 which covers international matches, tournaments and tours.
Must have approval
These stipulate that the unions concerned must have the approval of the respective unions and then, in turn, the IRB Council. Regulation 16.2.7 states: “When any tournament is planned where it is proposed that teams, at any level, from two or more unions will participate, the approval of the Unions concerned must be obtained in writing through the secretaries of those unions before applying for the consent of the council or finalising the arrangements or issuing invitations.”
Until formally requested to approve the mooted tournament, or formally requested to intervene by unions or the ERC, the IRB will seemingly retain their watching brief. Yet leading figures of the dozen Premiership clubs will convene today to further discuss their plans for a new competition, driven by them and the French clubs, with the Celts and Italians invited to participate.
The Guardian newspaper yesterday quoted an unnamed source, or sources, in outlining plans for the tournament, which is apparently exploring admitting six South African provincial sides in a breakaway by them from Super Rugby, and an equally brazen re-shuffling of the seasonal itinerary.
‘Guerrilla spirit to them’
The ERC president Jean-Pierre Lux maintained no new competition would be approved by the RFU and French federation, and commented: “We received letters from the English and French leagues a few weeks ago that had a decidedly guerrilla spirit to them. When I hear the English and French leagues denouncing Celtic intransigence, we could also reply that those two leagues don’t want to change their positions. We need to find a compromise to advance.”
Meanwhile, the ERC has called for a meeting in Dublin on October 23rd, requesting that all the stakeholders, namely the six affiliated Unions or Federations along with the Ligue Nationale de Rugby, Premiership Rugby and Regional Rugby Wales, attend “with the ultimate objective of finding a negotiated solution to the current impasse”.
ERC chief executive, Derek McGrath, who cited similar difficulties in 2007 as proof that the current impasse was not insurmountable, said: “The involvement of all parties in ERC’s make-up is as vital now,” adding: “the only forum which can provide the platform for all-party negotiation under the accord is the ERC forum and any attempt to ambush or denigrate the discussions is clearly not in the best interest of these great European tournaments.”
However, there must now be a doubt as to whether the PRL and LNR representatives Peter Wheeler and Rene Bouscatel, will even attend future board meetings.